Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Small-Town America Matters In November

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

A Fourth of July in small town America is something every American citizen should experience at least once in their lifetime. My wife and I have just returned from our town’s courthouse green where each year on this day one of our citizens is given the honor of reading the words of the Declaration of Independence. Along with an eclectic group of folks also gathered here, we sat in our lawn chairs facing the Edenton Bay and listened to those poignant words that first echoed at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pa., on July 4, 1776. The 13 American colonies proclaimed their independence in dramatic fashion with language not only eloquent in phraseology, but bold in determination and resolve.

On this picturesque, summer morning in eastern North Carolina, the breeze off the water, the rustling of the leaves and the sailing vessels in the waters could not distract those gathered here from the powerful words echoing through the green. This sacred document was serving notice once more that freedom is never free.

Many in this quaint, rural southern town will spend most of the day sitting on front porches visiting with locals and visitors alike who pass by on the sidewalks that meander through the historic district of Edenton, a town still referred to as the “Cradle of the Colony.” They will exchange pleasantries with those within earshot as they sip on their iced tea or other favorite beverage. Later in the day many will return to the water where they’ll gather with friends and family to picnic and then watch the patriotic fireworks display above the bay in the evening summer sky.

Other small towns across America might celebrate Independence Day with parades, band concerts or picnics. Regardless of how the anniversary of our nation’s birth is marked this much is certain; the small rural communities that dot the landscape across the miles of this great country understand the meaning of patriotism, the significance of history and the hardships of sacrifice.

The values found in small town and rural U.S.A. is reminiscent of what most Americans deemed the norm not so long ago. Families living near their relatives where they would not only look out for one another but convey a sense of stability and continuity to those towns in which they lived. The values of the family often mirrored the values of the community; the values of the community the values of the nation.

America is obviously no longer a rural nation. In fact most of our population is centered in large urban corridors that serve as the financial and cultural hubs of their respective regions. Many there have never been exposed to rural life and have little understanding of it. They see no financial opportunity there, only a vast wilderness representing an agrarian society that has lost its influence in any national conversation – or so they feel.

Rural and small town Americans have little concept of instant gratification-something that may be more easily realized in a physical setting much different than their own. They tend to be more patient, as disappointment is oft more reality than not. They’re interdependent on family, friends and neighbors not just because they need to be to survive, but because they understand the meaning and strength of pulling together, of helping and being helped, of sharing in good times and bad. These folks often worship with each other on Sunday and perhaps even attend a mid-week Bible study. They understand that the strength of a community is essential to the strength of a nation.

When someone dies in a small town or rural area it’s a loss for everyone. Those young men and women who volunteer for military service understand the risk of returning home in a coffin, yet they volunteer nonetheless because their family, their community, their state and their nation is counting on them to keep us safe. Duty outweighs self. That’s the way it is here. That’s the way it’s always been. And in the eyes of these good people, that’s the way it will always be.

Many of these Americans will leave their farms and small towns behind but they won’t leave values that have been handed down for generations. Some will be replaced by others who recognize there is something special here in this land where financial opportunities are often few, but where principles, values and patriotism still reign.

In the 1971 movie “The Last Picture Show,” small-town America dies when its only movie theatre is closed. Small-town America is not dead. The values that made America great are engrained deep within the souls of all who call these communities home. Yes they may be mocked by progressive sophisticates in urban areas for clinging to their guns and their Bibles, but so too have generations of Americans who sacrificed their lives and treasures to build a nation free from tyranny and oppression. Those elitists simply don’t get it. But they’ll be reminded once more this November why small-town and rural values represent the “heartbeat of America.”

The "me, me, me" generation that Barack Obama represents and typifies, is not interested in these values or impressed by them. It is going to be interesting to see whether Bob is right. I pray he is.


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